You cannot fully grasp or appreciate how absolutely crazy the weather in Patagonia is, until you experience it in person. You may have heard of winds so strong that they can push you over. Or of sunny summer days that turn into fierce winter storms without warning. But until you set foot in Patagonia, all these stories remain well, just stories. I still can’t fully comprehend the moodiness of this climate that doesn’t leave room for any weather predictions. But I guess that’s what makes this region so unique. And as the weather is unique, so should be your Patagonia packing list.
What dictates the content of your rucksack depends of the kind of hiking you are planning to do. But weather you plan to do day hikes in Torres del Paine, or trek the beautiful mountains of El Chalten, there are some essential items that will make your hiking experience significantly better. Having good gear and carrying a manageable amount of weight on these treks is crucial. That’s why packing for Patagonia will require a little more planning than packing for your other trips.
What’s on My Patagonia Packing List
The Patagonia packing list below will get you through all types of weather and activities, but it assumes you are staying at a lodge or hotel each evening. This list assumes you are not camping or in need of any camping gear. The refugios on the W circuit provide blankets or sleeping bags, so you only need to bring your own camping gear if you plan to sleep in a tent.
1. Clothing recommendations
Let’s start with the essentials – good outdoor clothing for hiking and backpacking is needed for your daily activities. Because the weather conditions vary so much in this region, your clothes should be comfortable, functional and lightweightt. Layers and waterproof are the keywords when packing for Patagonia. Also, it’s always good to pack eco-friendly travel accessories and products and leave as little behind you as you can.
- Sturdy ankle-high waterproof hiking boots. I can’t stress enough the importance of buying good quality hiking boots. This is the one piece of equipment that will make or break the ‘deal’ on these hikes. Wear comfortable boots that you already broke in, because you’ll be in them for days.In addition to hiking boots you should also bring a pair of sturdy walking/running shoes for lighter hiking, or for the evenings. Wearing the same pair of shoes every single day is unhealthy and not recommended for your feet. I like Keen because they have a lot of room in the front and don’t squeeze my toes, but there are many good brands to choose from.
- Hooded Waterproof/breathable jacket. This type of rainwear keeps rain from getting through to your skin, while also allowing sweat to move out. When hiking, both rain and perspiration can soak you.
- Socks. You need both thin and thick socks for trekking. I always wear my boots with two pairs of socks (one thin, one thick) to avoid blisters. On long hikes compressions socks work great. Also, wearing clean dry socks is essential, so bring enough socks for every day of your trekking.
- Base layer clothes are absolutely essential when packing for Patagonia. Because of the temperature fluctuations, you’ll need to consider dressing in layers so you can take off or put on layers quickly. As much as I love cotton, it is not a good fabric for hiking. Cotton traps the sweat inside and your clothes will stay wet longer. For layers, I personally prefer wool and wear a lot of Icebreaker tops on my hikes, but my husband likes polyester. Both are a good choice because they dry very fast.
- Waterproof pants. I used a pair of waterproof running tights as the base layer which I doubled with a pair or thick polyester pants for hiking. I also brought a pair of stretch jeans for the evenings. Many people wear waterproof pants which are a great choice for rainy days. I personally don’t like them too much. They are bulky and expensive and not absolutely necessary (depending on the time of year you travel to Patagonia). However, I found that wearing a pair of waterproof gaiters on top of my pants made a big difference when it rained.
- Waterproof gloves are a must! Thin, polyester or cotton gloves will not work if it gets cold and rainy. There may be days when you don’t need gloves at all, but I recommend wearing them for protection as well.
- Hat/Beanie. Bring a wool, thick beanie that you can pull down on your ears and forehead when the wind blows. You’ll use this for sure!
- Packable down vest/jacket. I wore mine when I was on the boat, or on the road. I found it to be too warm for hiking though.
2. Hiking gear recommendations
- Backpack and bags. The kind of backpack you need depends on the kind of hiking you are planning to do. For multiple day trekks, an internal frame backpack is a must (e.g. a 50-60 or 70 liter). But I recommend an internal frame for short hikes as well. Most of them also have a mesh to allow ventilation, so your back doesn’t sweat too much. For day hikes an 18-24 liter bag should do). When choosing a backpack, keep in mind that different manufacturers use differing methods to measure the capacity, or volume. Also, some models are ideal for men, or for women. Hiking with a backpack that doesn’t fit properly can be extremely uncomfortable. Most of the professional backpacks come with a rain cover which should be very helpful if the winds in Patagonia weren’t so strong. For that reason, I also recommend buying a dry bag for your camera and some ziplock storage bags to help protect anything else you carry in your backpack. Remember: it rains in Torres del Paine and everywhere else in Patagonia!
- Trekking poles. Many hikers argue that you can get by without them. BIG MISTAKE! People kept telling us that hiking poles didn’t look cool. Seriously? Those poles saved us so many times. Especially when we hiked to Laguna de Los Tres, in Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia is famous for rocky and very rough terrain, so using trekking poles will come in very handy. Especially when you walk downhill, or cross a stream. I strongly recommend packing lightweight, packable, and sturdy trekking poles.
Hiking at Laguna de Los Tres in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
3. Other items you will need to pack
- In addition to the above list, you should also bring the following items:
- Basic first aid kit
- Mosquito repellant
- Refillable water bottle
- Head lamp
- Small towel
- Plug adaptor for Chile and one for Argentina
- Battery pack and a high-speed charging cable to charge your phone
- And last but not least, your CAMERA! This is the one thing that you will deeply regret leaving behind (in case you forget to bring it). Pack it ahead of any other item on this list and don’t forget your charger, extra memory cards and a tripod. Patagonia is one of the most stunning places on Earth and you won’t be able to stop taking pictures.
A final point
Since on this trip we stayed in a hotel and not in refugios or campsites, the above Patagonia packing list does not include any references to camping gear. However, we hiked extensively in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park, so all of these suggestions apply to trekking and backpacking just the same. For ideas on where to go backpacking in Chile, you may want to read this post.
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